In my time working in digital (particularly client services), the biggest compliment I think you can receive is a client coming to you with the words, “we don’t see you as our marketing agency, we see you as an extension of our team”.
For me, this is what every digital agency should be striving for – a client who has such a strong level of trust in you and your ability. Essentially, that the concept of “them” “and us” is removed completely.
The best part about this is that it’s incredibly easy to take steps towards cementing this kind of relationship with your clients, but it’s one that many agencies miss out on.
In this post, I’m going to take you through my steps on establishing the best kind of relationship with your client, so they can start viewing you as one of their own.
Take your Time
Something that is often overlooked at the beginning of a new client relationship is the initial time that it takes to hit the ground running successfully.
Yes, it’s exciting when you land a new client and get to work on their account, but equally rushing into that relationship can lead to bigger problems down the line.
Take time out at the beginning of the relationship to find out as much as possible about your client, even if it means that activity is a little slower to start with at first. It’s better to take that extra time early on, than rush into a new relationship and a new strategy only to find that something isn’t working. As this can lead to your client being disappointed only weeks or months into the contract.
Use this opportunity to find out who your client actually is. I’m not talking about their year-on-year growth or their top-performing campaigns but learning about the people behind the brand, the ones you speak to daily. What are their personalities like? How are they most comfortable communicating? What do they expect from you? The more you treat your clients as human beings, the more likely they will do the same in return.
You may think I’m stating the obvious on this one, but communication is, and always will be, a massive area of opportunity for anyone in our industry. It’s probably the single most thing that will improve your relationships with your clients.
While email is great, particularly if there are lots of people to keep in the loop, it often wastes more time than it saves. Pick up the phone or jump on a video call with your clients. Not only is it easier to convey tone and intention, but it also allows you to connect with your clients on a much more personable level. It doesn’t have to be strictly business all the time and it helps you to just check in!
It can be tempting to promise clients the world, particularly when you feel it might win a new contract. But remember, you eventually have to deliver on that promise, and if you don’t it’s you that has to deal with the backlash.
Always stand by this motto: Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s much easier to develop a relationship because expectations have exceeded those you initially set, than it is to tidy up a mess because you’ve fallen short.
Be realistic about what your clients can expect from you, both in terms of service and performance. They’ll appreciate your honesty, and everyone will know where they stand.
To find out if you’re meeting your client’s expectations, one tactic I use is to ask the client to mark you out of ten, and ask what is needed to move up another two or three points.
This might sound brutal, and it might be hard for your client to be this honest with you if you’ve been working with them for a while, but it’s a great way for you to understand where you might be falling short. And how you can make short term and long-term improvements.
At connective3, we pride ourselves on offering our clients a fully connected service across a range of products, using second to none data and strategic thinking. This means that when I go into a client relationship, I know that I have the best of the best on my team, and I want to shout about that!
Let your clients know that they have a wealth of knowledge and expertise working on their account. Ensure you’re not possessive over relationships and don’t feel the need to be overly protective.
Likewise, appreciate that while you might be the expert in your field, be it SEO, content, PPC or PR, the client is the expert in theirs. By treating the relationship as a collaboration and utilising both sets of expertise, you’re bound to drive the best results.
Update your clients on everything. Even if this can feel like overkill at times, be upfront with them and make sure they understand absolutely everything that is going on with their account.
Are there changes being made? Okay, why? Is something working well or are results tanking? No problem – what are you going to do about it? As a digital professional, you are the expert, but not everyone understands the nuances of what we do. So, make sure your clients understand the logic behind everything that you’re doing for them.
By doing this, not only are you being transparent, but you’re also making their job much easier. This is because you’re providing them with the information they need to present digital activity to their seniors within their own business. Which means you’re enabling your client to see you as a peer rather than someone who is adding to the pressure they may already feel in their day-to-day job.
Things don’t always go to plan; we’re all human beings and nobody’s perfect, so naturally, mistakes happen. And when they do, whether they’re big or small, try not to lose your head. Nothing will shake up your relationship more than a client getting the feeling that you don’t have a handle on things. The most important thing is to maintain that trust with them that you’ve worked so hard to build up.
When mistakes occur, own it and be honest. Granted, those conversations aren’t always the easiest or the most comfortable, but often you’ll find that your relationship with your client is much stronger for it.
It’s much easier to be upfront with a client about what has happened, why it has happened and what you are going to do to resolve it, than ignoring an issue and hoping nobody will notice. Or worse, cover it up completely; that NEVER goes well.
While some of these points might seem obvious, any of you in client services should be applying them to client relationships. Why not take a step back and see if there’s anything that might be missing, that will take it that one step further? You certainly won’t regret it and your clients will definitely notice the difference!